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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 2, 2011 1:07am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

I do enjoy the ‘80s, but at the same time, I agree with a lot of the points here. I doubt you’d find many folks who’d say that Persian somehow improved Jerry’s playing or the “Heineken years” (first half of the 80s, roughly) were Phil’s most brilliant.

Then there’s also this:

1) Everyone’s ears are not the same. The band lasted a long time. There was change, and there were ups and downs, and what are the statistical chances of EVERYONE'S ears liking ALL the changes or being able to shrug off or wade through ALL the ups and downs?!?

2) The “golden age” really is the “gold standard,” particularly in the digital era, when we can hear it all with a click. If you’re a Deadhead, which by definition means you really like the music and listen to a lot of it and respond instinctively to SOMETHING in it (however vaguely felt), you’re going to find that era eventually, even if you were born in 1990, and it will probably encapsulate the Dead Sound most strongly for you. So then you compare things with that gold standard, and depending on how you're wired (and whether you're oriented towards what bk called the "narrative of decline" vs a less linear narrative), the 80s might feel like "a different flavor" or it might just start to fail the test. That's especially true because ...

3) Some folks are connoisseurs by nature; others (like me) are just opinionated. A connoisseur enjoys the process of making judgments in a way that tends to be hierarchical or ranking-oriented. (E.g., “the best wine grapes come from La Woodeewoo, nothing good comes from Le Boopdeboop,” or “the best pashmina wool is invariably from the mountain goats of Ladakh; you can’t possibly have good pashmina from lower-altitude goats.”) Some of us just don't think that way (or might be connoisseurs of things that work with later GD, like the MIDI palette.) So we can agree roughly with the broad outlines of what connoisseurs tend to find while thinking of it more as "different flavors" (which isn't so much ranking-oriented). It's a mindset.

4) A lot of times, if you’re passionate about something or respond strongly to it (jammed-out transitions, certain instrument sounds, etc, or non-musical things like, oh, food coops vs big grocery chains), its antithesis or apparent rejection or partial abandonment can be upsetting. So instead of just saying, “Meh, I’m not crazy about that,” you end up going, “oh my god, I HATE that. It’s total crap.” It’s an emotional response. For some folks, I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s an element of that going on with later GD.

Anyway, guess that’s my rambling essay for the day ... Time to listen to some good 80s now and do something productive. But that was fun :-)



This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2011-08-02 07:55:59

This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2011-08-02 08:07:52

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 2, 2011 1:38am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

I agree with everything you wrote, AR. It really is about both the listener, and the music itself, always. I am always fascinated to read all the diverse ways everyone hears the band. You can even make a case that the diversity opinion among even the band's diehard fans is part of what makes 'em so great.

The issue of how persian affected Jerry's playing is always interesting to me, because I think Betty Cantor in an interview said that the drug was "way inside" and took people into themselves and away from interaction. I relate this to Phil's comments about people "playing ahead" and not listening as much.

At the same time, there is this amazing hypnotic fluency in Jerry's playing in the early 80s that I often really love! I think I recently wrote a comment that it almost gives me a narcotic contact buzz just listening to it. The PITB jam in particular, when he is spinning endlessly on little sinuous descending lines, often makes me feel like I'm caught up inside a Lewis Carroll type opium dream.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Aug 2, 2011 2:05am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

>I relate this to Phil's comments about people "playing ahead" and not listening as much.

Also recall the three-point "open letter" on "crimes and misdemeanors against music" (or something like that) written by Phil, signed by the band and given to Jerry -- I believe right after the 1981 Barcelona show, interestingly, which is a show I really like -- where one of the crimes was "never playing with any dynamics." That's definitely an 80s weak point compared with the early 70s, where dynamics are just astounding. And I'm assuming dynamics is almost entirely about listening to each other.

But yeah, the topic of how various substances impacted the music is bound to be complicated, and is one that doesn't really seem to get addressed ... guess no one wants to touch it, LOL, except to say "acid and group mind" or "coke and playing fast" or "opiates and decline." The fact is that '77, which is much-vaunted and truly gorgeous, was a time of early Persian use by Jerry, heavy drinking by Phil, and coke-plus-you-name-it by the others, I gather.

So, there it is. Layers within layers.





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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 2, 2011 2:27am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Do we know which show the infamous apple juice freakouts occurred?

Since we wandered onto this topic...

Something I tried to figure out awhile ago, with no definitive result (and no written record of my researches, either) was identifying the show referred to by multiple people in 69 where multiple people got extremely dosed by some apple juice. It seems like it must be during the June Fillmore West run, Phil in his book talks about Elvin Bishop jamming.

Has anyone specifically pulled this together? I remember listening to the shows trying to hear the kind of musical strangeness described, and don't recall having a definitive conclusion or even perception.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 2, 2011 4:01am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Do we know which show the infamous apple juice freakouts occurred?

According to this, it was the June 8 show:
http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/04/fillmore-west-june-6-and-8-1969-guest.html

Which seems like the most reasonable conclusion to me.
Though there's still the question of whether they were dosed before that glorious first set, or between sets...
My guess it was before set 2, since that's when Garcia departs and Elvin comes on for a few songs.
If it was before set 1 though, and they could still play like that, then no wonder they were dosing each other all the time...

Ceballos' "singing" on Lovelight, though, may be taped proof of why you should keep away from the applejuice!

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Aug 2, 2011 12:43pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Phil's recollections of the apple juice show

Well, you have this source available to you, so I'm not giving you new information, but if Phil's memory is accurate, it was before the show started, because Phil says:

"At one point, I looked over at Jerry and saw a bridge of light like a rainbow of a thousand colors streaming between us; and flowing back and forth across that bridge: three-dimensional musical notes - some swirling like the planet Jupiter rotating at 100 times normal speed, some like fuzzy little tennis balls with dozens of legs and feet (each foot wearing a different sock!), some striped like zebras, some like pool balls, some even rectangular or hexagonal, all brilliantly colored and evolving as the flowed, not only the notes that were being played, but all the possible notes that could have been played. That moment may well have been the peak of psychedelic music for me - the combination of absolute inevitability and ecstatic freedom has never been equaled."

That quote, to me, is one of the most amazing and perfect quotations about the Grateful Dead and improvisation and LSD and the musicians onstage I have ever read - I mean, it really communicates the unbelievably transcendent nature of the experience.

The set opening Dancin definitely seems animated by flowing musical thoughts between Jerry and Phil. It sounds like one brain to me, neuron-level synchronization mirroring the musical content. At the same time, it is a little hard to believe the technical quality of the playing could be as strong as it is if everyone was actually that far gone.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 2, 2011 4:18am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

"Dear sir and brother: You have been accused of certain high crimes & misdemeanors against the art of music. To wit: Playing in your own band; Never playing with any dynamics; Never listening to what anybody else plays..."
McNally didn't quote any more, though!

The question of the relation between the drugs & the music has actually been addressed too often, I think, but also too vaguely. The fact is that Garcia was probably extremely high on something at every single show up to the mid-'80s; other band members would have fluctuated. From the early days they would've learned how to regulate themselves to be "just right" at showtime. But I don't think we can assume that the band's style in any show was determined by the drugs of choice that day, or that we can even tell. Unless someone can break down, year by year, an examination of Garcia's stylistic patterns within the Dead and within his sidebands and show how they were affected by the particular drugs he favored in those years...

For instance, cocaine. Phil calls 1981 a coke year: "Even though everyone was playing individually as well as ever, none of us was really listening to one another much, only to our own frying brain cells. I was as much a part of the problem as anyone, falling into a stupefying cycle of booze & coke abuse."
Of course Phil, by his account, had been a stumbling drunk ever since '77. 1978 would also appear to be a heavy cocaine year, with the band frequently revved-up onstage - though it actually seems to be a year by most accounts when Garcia was also very heavily into persian, which you'd think would have the opposite effect, though I guess it depends on the combination. And 1974 is the year where we have many accounts of the band going through piles of cocaine - most famously in Europe, but I highly doubt they'd been "clean" the summer before.
Yet, how similar is the music of '74 to the music of '78 or '81? Does Garcia's playing show the same familiar coke tics in all those years? How could we separate that from other stylistic choices? Did the band go through phases in-between where cocaine was more or less in use? How did different drug combinations affect the band? Can we determine that certain tours are better because Garcia must've been using less that month?
So that's why I'm saying that connecting Garcia's playing decline just to his drug use is too facile; it's really an unknown, and there were other factors at work.

That he was adversely affected over time I don't doubt, but - you know, there have been many musicians who could still play well while relatively incapacitated, and I think other issues of poor health & disinterest were equally hammering away at him. (How many heroin addicts do you know who GAIN so much weight? Drugs were the least of his problems. In the last decade, numb fingers, carpal tunnel, swollen feet, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, infected teeth, kidney problems & heart disease just might have distracted him from time to time!) I suspect the heroin he came to prefer affected his communication with the others more than the playing itself, as he became more withdrawn & less interested in the music.

A couple comments, from those in the know -
Phil, fall '84: "Jerry's demeanor onstage had been alarming, to say the least. He would stand back from his mike, staring down at the floor, while listlessly going through the show without making eye contact with anyone... His time, once banjo-precise, was now wavering all over the place - faster, slower, often in the same phrase. He'd start tunes too fast and try to slow them down, then shrug and keep speeding up... His performances were perfunctory and lifeless, and he was increasingly uncommunicative and solitary offstage as well. Even though he showed occasional flashes of his old self, Jerry's increasing heroin use was debilitating him to the point that his health was of major concern to us."

Bruce Hornsby on the MSG shows, fall '91: "It was really a dogshit run. Garcia was in this place I couldn't understand...he'd put his head straight down and look at the floor the whole time, hunch over and not communicate with anyone. And that wasn't like him...we'd always had a lot of eye contact and interplay, really a lot of good feelings onstage. But it wasn't just that - he sort of wasn't listening and was starting to run roughshod over people's solos...and I thought at times the music just seemed strangely lifeless. I asked Bobby about it and he explained it to me... I went into Garcia's tent and said, 'There's nothin' happening here and I really resent your coming to this gig and not putting anything into it...' And he said, 'Well man, you don't understand 25 years of burnout!'"

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Poster: wisconsindead Date: Aug 2, 2011 2:36pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

great post

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 2, 2011 4:36am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

I really think that's true.
And anyway, in some mundane ways "interacting" is obviously necessary to do most of anything productive in the world, but I suppose in terms of playing music well it might actually sometimes be an asset to be "not interacting much" with the outside world, but largely focusing within.

Like the other thread where we were talking about how Jerry seemed sometimes to be either channeling music or looking around him in bafflement as if he had just arrived from another planet ... have we considered that maybe the drugs really were an asset musically (obviously not to him personally, in terms of health or really any other way) ... even the heroin?

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Aug 2, 2011 12:08pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

I have considered that up to a point, drugs may have been a benefit musically... A lot of musicians felt that way in the '60s.
LSD, for instance, seems to have positively helped them musically in the early days (as Phil points out, more by aiding the group-mind than by altering their playing). Cocaine must have seemed like a wonderful thing as well when they started doing it.
Blair Jackson says, "It's difficult to say how cocaine affected the Dead's music in the early '70s, because there wasn't a time in that era when most of the band DIDN'T use it. Did they play faster? Did it give them the energy they needed to play four-hour shows? ...We'll never know."
Since cocaine was a constant through the '70s, that's one reason I'm suspicious of the feeling that '80s shows are short, fast & non-jammed because they're coked-up...when getting older, tired & bored might have been equally strong reasons. Jerry's speedy, spiraling guitar lines of the early '80s are not necessarily more "narcotic" in inspiration than his drifting wah-wah lines of the early '70s....
Although with coke & heroin, I can agree with Dudley's saying that it gets more debilitating over time, and what may have helped in the '70s increasingly warped Jerry in the '80s. My theory is its influence on his playing was more indirect - as he withdrew not just from the outside world but from musical possibilities, and approached shows with more of a one-track setting, not interacting with the band & caring less about how the music came out.
(And I'd point out that many people here still like the early '80s up to '83 or so, when Jerry was way more drugged-up than he was in those glory years of '87-88, when he was relatively clean!)

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 2, 2011 4:39am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

I personally believe his playing was best in the early '80's. That doesn't quite track with what was happening with the band, though; doesn't mean the Grateful Dead were at their best in the early '80's.

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Aug 2, 2011 4:35am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Why Don't You Like the 80's?

Very well thought through ... IMO. (Lacking as I do an opinion about lower-altitude goats.)

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